SIRUTHONDA NAYANAR


In Tiruchenkattangudi in the Chola kingdom, there lived a Siva Bhakta by name Paranjyoti.
His was a family of army commanders. He himself was the Commander-in-Chief of the Chola king.
He realised that devotion to the Feet of Lord Siva was the best means of obtaining Liberation from
Samsara and so, he clung to Them.
Once, at the instance of his king, he waged war with a North Indian king, defeated him and
returned with a big booty. The king was highly pleased. The minister informed the king that
Paranjyotiar was able to achieve the victory because of his intense devotion to Lord Siva. This
shocked the king, who was a Siva Bhakta himself: he regretted having compelled a Siva Bhakta to
wage a bloody war. He called Paranjyotiar, apologised for having sent him, a Siva Bhakta to war,
and, after giving him rich presents, sent him back to his village, with the request that he should
henceforth engage himself in His Puja. Paranjyotiar returned to his village and from that time was
engaged in the worship of the Lord and His Bhaktas. He would not eat without first feeding a Siva
Bhakta. He regarded himself as the lowly servant of the Lord and His Bhaktas: hence the name
Siruthondar (small servant).
Lord Siva wanted to bring out the glory of this noble saint. So, one day He appeared in front
of SiruthondarÂ’s house, in the guise of a Vairavar (a special class of Siva Yogis). He enquired of
Siruthondar’s maid-servant, Sandana Nangaiyar, whether her master was at home. She said: ‘No,
he has gone in search of a Siva Bhakta, without feeding whom he would not take his food.Â’ But,
afraid lest this Siva Yogi should go away, she entreated him to come into the house. The mendicant
would not: ‘I shall not enter the house in which a woman is alone.’ Siruthondar’s wife Tiruvengattu
Nangaiyar heard these words and came out hurriedly and prayed to the Vairavar to stay in the house
till the husband returned. The Vairavar repeated his objection and said: ‘When he comes back tell
him I am under the tree near the temple.Â’ The Vairavar went away.
Immediately afterwards, Siruthondar returned. His wife told him all that had happened in
his absence. Siruthondar was overjoyed because he was unable to find any other Bhakta that day. At
once he ran to the temple and fell at the feet of the Vairavar and invited him to the house for
Bhiksha. The Vairavar, however, hesitated and remarked: ‘I doubt whether you will be able to fulfil
the exacting conditions I shall demand for accepting your Bhiksha: so, better leave me alone.Â’
Siruthondar was greatly grieved. He had thought that this mendicant had been specially sent by God
to enable him to adhere to his vow and feed a Bhakta every day. He was prepared to meet any
demand from the Bhakta, if only he agreed to take the Bhiksha. Now, the mendicant revealed his
condition: ‘Oh devotee, it is my habit to eat once in six months the fresh meat of a Pasu. That time
has now come. I doubt whether you will satisfy me.Â’ This word Pasu has two meanings: an animal
and a human being. Siruthondar thought that the mendicant only meant animal meat: and readily
agreed! To his surprise, however, the mendicant revealed that meant human flesh! He also added:
‘Oh friend, it should be the meat of a child. The child should be five years of age. He must be
healthy. He should be the only son of his parents. Such a boy must be held by the mother and cut
into pieces by his father. This meat must be cooked nicely and offered to me.Â’ Without the least
hesitation, Siruthondar accepted conditions and took the mendicant home.
How to find a boy of the mendicantÂ’s description? Siruthondar thought of his own son who
fitted the description. The noble wife agreed, too, and asked him to get the child from school. As
soon as he came the mother held him on her lap. The innocent child was laughing when
Siruthondar, with one stroke cut his throat. The head is generally unfit for cooking, and is not fit for
being offered to the Lord. So, they gave it away to the maid-servant and began to cook, the rest of
the meat. After worshipping the mendicant, Siruthondar was preparing to offer him Bhiksha. The
mendicant ascertained the method adopted by them in cooking the meat and Nayanar explained
everything (except the fact that it was their own son that they had sacrificed). The mendicant said he
would eat the head, too. The maid-servant had anticipated this and had the head cooked and ready.
Once again, Siruthondar requested the Yogi to have his meal. Now, the Yogi wanted
another Siva Bhakta to eat with him: and there was no one except the Nayanar himself. So, he sat
with the Yogi, ready to eat the flesh of his son, to please the Yogi. Yet, one more condition had to be
fulfilled! The Yogi said that unless the hostÂ’s son ate with him, he would not eat! Nayanar tactfully
explained that his son was not in the house and so could not join with them. But, the Yogi insisted:
‘Go out and call for him: he will come.’ Nayanar wanted to obey the Yogi and did as the Yogi had
asked to do. Wonder of wonders: the young boy came running to the father as soon as the father had
cried aloud: ‘Sirala, come here: the Yogi wants you to eat with him.’ The parents were astonished to
see their child, Siralan come back to life. They entered the kitchen, but could not find the Yogi
there. The meat had also disappeared! As they were searching for the Yogi, the Lord appeared
before them, blessed them and took them to His Abode.